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Northern Rockies gets new top cop

McLeod brings years of big-city experience as detachment head
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Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has a new top cop.

It didn't take long for Staff Sgt. Steve McLeod to get a taste of what's to come in his new role as detachment commander. On June 26, 10 days after McLeod took over, a 2007 Grey Yamaha 660 Rhino ATV was stolen on 49 Avenue, something that Mayor Bill Streeper says exemplifies the kind of crime that keeps RCMP busy in Fort Nelson.

Streeper has met with McLeod to welcome him to the community and begin preliminary work on creating highway crossings for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

"Their role is to promote safety and protect the people of the community," the mayor said. "They work with the people. I'm looking forward to doing stuff in the community with the RCMP."

Streeper thinks mandatory registration and license plates on all ATVs will help alleviate safety concerns.

"The majority of the people are very, very responsible, and we don't mind them using the walking trail, but there are some that go and spoil it for everyone," said the mayor, adding that's it's a problem unique to the North. He thinks plates would help identify offenders.

"If they were registered and they had a plate, then it's a lot easier to identity. Theft is problem, but ATV misuse is a problem too," he said, noting circumstances where RCMP can neither pursue an ATV in a high speed chase due to safety concerns nor identify its driver.

McLeod fills the chair that was left empty when Staff Sergeant Tom Roy moved his family to Nelson, 1,701 km to the south, for a new role as Kootenay Boundary regional inspector. Roy had been stationed in Fort Nelson for 10 years.

After Roy departed earlier this year, Sergeant Les Hobenshield and Corp. Brad Lougheed took turns filling in as acting detachment commanders while McLeod made preparations for his move from Chilliwack.

McLeod is cognisant of the unique challenges that come with policing in the North.

"In this community, there are a lot of thefts of smaller items, like ATVs, so what we would do is develop strategies to combat that type of theft," McLeod said in an interview on his second day on the job.

"There are a lot of recreational vehicles in town just because of the nature of the area. It's rural and a lot of people enjoy those types of activities in their off time."

McLeod said his biggest challenge off the bat is getting to know the community and what they expect the police service to provide, so he can align his operations with their needs.

"There's different challenges compared to working in a larger centre," he said. "You have different access to resources in a larger area that you don't have in Fort Nelson. The (officers) in a smaller community need to work a little differently. They've got to provide a higher level of service using their own skills. They have to be more independent."

The previous commander told McLeod the NRRM has three priorities it wants addressed: Crime, harm and victimization reduction, which means addressing criminal components of the region; reducing the number of property and violent crimes; and working with youth.

"So it's not just reactionary," he said. "It's 100 per cent trying to be proactive and intelligence-led, which means we try to determine who our most prolific offenders might be, then develop strategies to target them or the types of crimes they're involved in."

McLeod brings to NRRM a broad background in police work.

"I've worked in major crime units, been involved in drug investigations, I've worked in Aboriginal policing communities, I've worked in detachment management," he said. "In my role as a commander, I'm going to draw on all those experiences to work with the community to develop the service we provide to them. With my background, I'm going to bring suggestions on how we can meet their needs from a policing perspective."

He's worked throughout the Lower Mainland, including the RCMP's Surrey detachment, which is the largest in the country, and in WIlliams Lake, a busy northern detachment.

"My role as a commander is to work with the leadership of the community, key partners, other organizations, to try and address the needs of the community, whether that's crime prevention or dealing with resourcing issue with the mayor and leadership of the community," McLeod said.

Fort Nelson being an outdoors-oriented community makes policing here different than other communities, said the mayor.

"People (in Fort Nelson) don't haul their ATV out of town to use them. They start them up and go," noted Streeper.

"That's going to be a challenge. That would be the main thing, to work with each other on the aspect that this is an outdoor community. People moved here, they live here, they like it here because they like access to the outdoors."

RCMP encourage owners to register their quads or other offroad vehicles with the RCMP detachment at 4804 McLeod Rd. Fort Nelson RCMP can be reached at (250) 774-2700.